HOUSTON (CN) – A worker hid under his desk for 18 hours and narrowly escaped terrorists who attacked BP’s Algerian gas plant and killed 40 employees, the man claims in court.
Steve Wysocki sued BP in Harris County Court on Monday, seeking more $100 million in damages.
Wysocki says BP recruited him through a third party to work as an independent contractor at its natural gas plant near In Amenas, Algeria, a town in eastern Algeria close to the Libyan border.
The London-based company touted the safety and security of the plant, Wysocki says.
Yet when a weapons cache was found near In Amenas in early 2012, and BP received intelligence that foreign workers in the area could be targeted by terrorists, it did not disclose this, nor did it increase security at the plant, Wysocki says.
More than two dozen Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists raided the plant in the early morning of Jan. 16, 2013.
Wysocki says he got to his office at the plant at 5:15 that morning and took a call from his wife.
“A few minutes into the call, the power went out and the call was dropped. As this was somewhat of a common occurrence at the plant, Wysocki thought nothing of it,” the complaint states.
But moments later the plant alarm went off. Wysocki learned from Algerian workers, who were monitoring radio chatter, that terrorists were in the plant.
“The Algerian workers told Wysocki and the others to find hiding places. The Algerians knew that the terrorists would come looking for the expatriate workers, and one could only guess what would happen next,” the complaint states.
Wysocki says he cleared out a space under his desk then went the bathroom. As he left the bathroom, he saw two figures approaching the building, one wearing camouflage and a head scarf.
“He ran back towards his office yelling to the others to hide and then crawled under the comer of his desk,” the lawsuit states.
Wysocki says the terrorists came into his office and he listened in horror as they captured his boss.
In “immense fear” that the intruders would see his feet sticking out from under the desk, Wysocki says, he cowered under the desk as a terrorist stopped inches from him and yelled in clear English, “Is there anyone else!?”
Wysocki stayed hidden under the desk for nearly 18 hours.
With the sounds of gunfire and explosions all around them, Wysocki says, he met with other expatriate workers who had emerged from their hiding places and they discussed an escape plan.
Two days after the siege began, Wysocki saw his chance.
“On Friday, January 18, just before dawn, Wysocki and two others carefully made a run for it, using the buildings and storage containers as cover,” the complaint states.
“The Algerian workers had cut a hole in the fence two days earlier for the expatriates, expecting that at some point they would need to get out. Wysocki and his coworkers were able to find the hole and crawl through the fence.”
Wysocki says they were picked up by the Algerian military just outside the plant, taken to a base in In Amenas and debriefed.
Others were not so fortunate. The terrorists killed 40 workers during their four-day siege of the plant.
Still, Wysocki says, the near-death experience left him emotionally damaged.
He seeks damages for gross negligence, fraud, lost earnings and medical expenses.
He is represented by Francis Spagnoletti of Houston.
The families of two American victims of the In Amenas attack sued BP in Harris County Court earlier this year.
BP expressed remorse for the incident.
“The terrorist attack at In Amenas was an unprecedented and murderous crime, followed by the military intervention of a sovereign state. It has profoundly impacted the lives of many people. Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the families of all those who were killed and those impacted by this terrible event,” BP press officer Robert Wine said in an email.
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